CLIFTONVILLE 3 BALLINAMALLARD 1
Davy McDaid’s second-half double helped Cliftonville make it 10 Premiership games without defeat under boss Gerard Lyttle.
The former Derry City and Coleraine ace pounced twice inside eight minutes after Colm McLaughlin’s own goal had opened the scoring.
Though James McKenna would reduce the arrears for the Mallards – who missed a penalty with the game scoreless – the Reds were comfortable victors.
Despite an enterprising start from the hosts, it was United who were presented with the first opportunity of the contest when Jaimie McGovern’s foul on Liam Martin earned a spot-kick which the midfielder picked himself up to take only to see his low effort turned away by goalkeeper Conor Devlin.
Just past the quarter-hour, Chris Curran steered a volley over the bar after Alvin Rouse had flapped at a Martin Donnelly corner and the big keeper had to be quick off his line to keep Donnelly at bay after McDaid and Paul George had combined to provide the opening.
The Reds enjoyed a strong finish to the first-half but couldn’t work their way through a well organised backline with Curran seeing a drive blocked by team mate Tomas Cogrove before Colm McLaughlin charged down a rasping Donnelly attempt.
A moment’s hesitancy from Jude Winchester allowed Martin just enough time to block the midfielder’s close-range strike but the breakthrough came nine minutes after the interval when Curran’s right-footed shot took a wicked deflection off McLaughlin and wrong-footed keeper Rouse.
Cliftonville’s lead was doubled before the hour thanks to Davy McDaid, who would race through to make it 3-0 on 67 minutes.
James McKenna pulled one back with a close-range header on 71 minutes but there was little chance of a Mallards comeback and, indeed, McDaid was unfortunate not to claim his hat-trick on more than one occasion as the clock ticked down.
CLIFTONVILLE: Devlin, McGovern, Ives, Flynn, Curran, McDaid, M Donnelly, Catney, Winchester, Cosgrove, George. Subs: Bonner, Knowles (Catney, 77 mins), McMullan (Curran, 87 mins), Garrett (George, 63 mins), J Donnelly.
BALLINAMALLARD: Rouse, McMenamin, McKenna, Friars, McLaughlin, Beacom, Lecky, McCrudden, Martin, Campbell, Lafferty. Subs: Currie, Courtney (McCrudden, 70 mins), Kublosek (Campbell, 80 mins), Feeney, Phair (Beacom, 56 mins).
REFEREE: Keith Kennedy (Lisburn)